My name is Sophie Lang, I am 17 years old and I live in Eugene, Ore. I am a senior in high school and two weeks ago, I took reserve champion in the ASPCA Maclay Region 7 Finals, qualifying myself for the national finals.
In one month, I will travel 2,000 miles to Kentucky with my horse, Paradigm. This is by far the biggest, most prestigious show I will have attended. When I was checking the list of riders and horses entered for the National Horse Show, the idea that I will be there in person to watch these amazing riders really sunk in. Not only will I be there watching these riders, I will be competing against some of them.
I’ve decided to send my own horse to Kentucky, despite the distance. It’s comforting to know I’ll have my partner in crime stepping into the ring with me. I’ve owned my first horse Paradigm, known as Simon around the barn, for almost five years. When we bought him, he was dead green with no show experience. My trainer Rachel Spears and I have put a lot of work into him to get him this point. Together we’ve come from the 2’6″ to the 3’3″ juniors and the 3’6″ medals. My mother and I work hard to pay for the expense of showing which means Simon has to do double duty as a hunter and equitation horse.
Simon and I had an amazing show season this year, so I felt really confident going into Maclay Regionals. We were reserve champion in the World Champion Hunter Rider low junior hunter section for our region, and won the Oregon Hunter Jumper Association 3’6″ Medal Finals a couple weeks beforehand. I was really hoping to improve on my sixth-place finish from 2016 at Regionals, so one of my goals for this year was to make it into the test.
We were called back sitting in fourth out of the five to return. The test that was given to us was difficult but fun and asked good questions of each horse and rider. The test included a halt in a line, a counter canter fence, and a trot fence. All of the riders rode the test very well so when the top 10 were brought back into the arena for the final results it was very exciting.
As each name was called in reverse order I grew more nervous; I had already accomplished my goal of returning for the test and the results were out of my control. As it got down to the top three I was so excited to have moved up after my test and when I was announced as reserve champion it was a proud moment for me and Simon to see how far we have come.
I am fortunate to have a very supportive barn family and they were quick to start planning ways to make the trip east less costly for my mother and I so that I would be able to have this exclusive experience as a junior.
During these past few weeks since Regionals they have been working with the local horse community by planning a Halloween carnival with a silent auction, selling used tack, and graphic design services among other things. My barn family means the world to me and knowing that they will be cheering me on no matter how my round goes is encouraging.
I’m so grateful to be able to attend the National Horse Show and I’m excited that I will be taking Simon. He’s been with me from the beginning and it seems only fitting he share this experience with me. I’m lucky enough to be able to go with a couple other girls from the Northwest. It will be reassuring to have friends—I’m sure I’ll feel like a deer in the headlights at a show of that caliber.
I’ll be blogging about my first Finals experience for the Chronicle over the next few weeks before the ASPCA Maclay Final on Nov. 4-5 in Lexington, Ky., so I hope you’ll follow along on my journey!